A reader who recently got a new dog is worried that it doesn’t get along with the cat they’ve owned for some time. Dr Platzhund gives her advice on how to keep the peace between the pets.
Q: We’ve just got a new dog, but she and our young female cat aren’t getting along. I have to keep the cat indoors and the dog outside. What can I do to encourage them to be in the house together?
A: Your cat has got more potential for tolerance than the dog. There’s no guarantee of mutual trust unless the dog the dog is not assertive and the cat is. To socialise across the two species, try these simple tricks.
- Feed them within sight of each other, where they can’t climb into each other. The cat should be in a large metal cage where the food and water is laid out.
- Place the cage at a distance where both dog and cat are comfortable enough to eat and not be excessively wary.
- The dog has to be tied up so that it cannot venture from its meal. If they eat within sight of each other, the idea is to move them slightly closer every five days until the dog can eat alongside the cat’s cage.
- The principle for each animal is to associate the food only with the presence of the ‘opposition’. This may break down barriers and increase tolerance and trust.
- The dog can be let loose while the cat is in the cage to determine its reactions. After a while the cat may eat out of its cage with the dog on a lead nearby.
- If this succeeds, then you can let them loose and hope for the best. The meals must be at set times totally under supervision.
- Take the dog to obedience training to increase its tolerance to strange events.
- Pheromone-based calming collars may help reduce stress and anxiety. Other important influences include breed of the dog, the sexes of the dog and cat, and owner’s attitude – people need to relax and not convey their apprehensions.